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Category Archives: photography

The original plan for this particular shoot was to capture stills with flash and motion with continuous light using the same modifiers.  The actual shoot turned out differently from the shoot I had planned.  Two things happened that altered my intention: The Profoto Daylight 800 Air truly “HMI-ed” — held my interest; and as photographer Ron Herard, who I had invited to shoot stills, began sharing his observations about shooting with HMIs for the first time, I decided to roll with it: We shot stills and motion simultaneously.

To the entire article, click here.

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With the continued increase in popularity of motion capture, more and more photographic lighting companies are expanding their lines and offering continuous lighting products.  Profoto is one of a handful of respected lighting manufacturers known for their flash units to not only offer a line of tungsten continuous lights, but also HMI lights as well.  Continuous lighting tools are not new for Profoto, as they marketed both a HMI and a tungsten unit, several years ago:  But the new products, the ProDaylight 800 Air and the ProTungsten Air, are not a simple retooling, but represent a major rethinking and development.  For the photographer who is shooting both stills and motion, particularly in a studio location or on a set, these lights expand the possibilities of modifying continuous light with the broad range of Profoto light shapers that they have been using with flash; both units are compatible with Profoto’s zoom reflector system, which gives one the ability customize the light shaping effect. 

To read the entire entry, click here!

Recently, I came across two interesting products while at Foto Care (41 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10010) that caught my eye:  The 12 inch and the 18 inch Daylight-balanced fluorescent Ring Lights from Stellar Lighting Systems
   To read the entire article click here.

Since January 1, 2011, the world’s camera makers have announced nearly 85 new camera models and only three of those are HDSLR/DSLR/interchangeable lens— mirror- less cameras.  This number does not include dedicated camcorders/video cameras.  These announcements have largely been made in conjunction with CES 2011 in Las Vegas and the Japanese CP+ show. 

The Bread and Butter of Digital Camera Business

The 80 plus  new point & shoot, advanced cameras, and super zooms, most of which have some video capabilities, underscore the fact that digital cameras are a staple of the consumer electronics business and also the continued importance of the  these cameras for image capture.  The cameras in this segment of the market are generally priced under $500 with the greatest number available in the $100-$350 range. These cameras fall squarely within the segment of the market that is most vulnerable to the camera- equipped smart phone.  Camera makers have battled the appeal of the phone imaging by including additional amenities and functionality: higher continuous shooting frame rates, better ISO performance, Wi-Fi connectivity, weatherproofing/ all-terrain proofing, waterproof models, as well as enhanced in-camera filters and processing abilities, and-image sharing options.  In an effort to expand the appeal of these cameras to more advanced users, manual control and a raw capture options seem to be showing up with increasing frequency on cameras in this segment. The pitch seems to be that the dedicated camera can give you better images as well as a greater degree of control under every circumstance than your cell phone can.    

Even with pressure from smart phones, the Camera and Imaging Products Association (CIPA) forecasts 6.4% growth in this segment of the market with unit sales approaching 115 million.  According to CIPA, overall camera sales are expected to reach 131 million units this year, which represents 7.8% growth over 2010. 

The Growth Segment

Estimates are that HDSLR/DSLR/interchangeable lens— mirror- less cameras account for the sale of the remaining 16 million camera units this year.  These cameras represent a smaller, but faster-growing and more profitable segment of the market for the manufacturers.  The expectation is for a 20% increase in sales over 2010.  The battleground here appears to be in the $500-$1000 retail price range where every major manufacturer is a player with multiple products in body only and /or lens kit configurations.

 The profitability of these cameras is not only fueled by the sale of camera bodies themselves but by the appetite of users for multiple lenses. How important is the demand for lenses? CIPA indicates that lens shipments should increase this year by nearly 22 percent to 26.4 million units.  While the traditional DSLR camera makers, have extensive lines of 35 mm lenses from ultra-wide to super telephoto for every conceivable use, they are facing competition from third party lens makers who are aggressively expanding their offerings.,

This potential for growth in lens sales explains the recent expansion of third-party lens manufacturers’ into the relatively young micro 4/3 lens utilized by Panasonic and Olympus and interest in the E-mount used by the Sony’s NEX camera models, which are not as robust as the options available for the traditional DSLR brands, Ultimately, the increase in lens options for cameras that utilize these mounts, should benefit camera body sales and market penetration. Sony recently made the decision to make their E-mount specifications available to third-party lens manufacturers without licensing fees.

 The wild cards in the growth in the HDSLR/DSLR/interchangeable lens— mirror- less camera segment are Canon and Nikon, who will undoubtedly release new HDSLR products during 2011, but neither has indicated whether they will introduce interchangeable lens mirror-less cameras and lenses this year.  Canon has, however, indicated to analysts that that it believes that sales for all of their digital cameras will top 30 million units.

What the Abundance of Cameras Means

There are a lot of cameras in hands of the general public, and the majority of them are in the hands of people who are not making a living with them.  The access to relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use cameras has changed the value of and the way people value both still and moving images.  The abundance of still and motion-capable cameras allows people to chronicle their everyday lives with an unparalleled ease.  This is a win-win situation for camera manufacturers, their shareholders, and the public.

And you thought a tablet was something you put in your mouth!

It wasn’t that long ago that most people associated the word “tablet” with a trip to the medicine cabinet or the drug store.  After CES 2011, the word “tablet” will be forever associated with a PEA (portable electronic appendage) or a computer.  It is clear that while most of the major camera and camcorder manufacturers were exhibitors at CES, along with appliance manufacturers, car companies, software companies and a host of other companies and disciplines, that among the products that garnered the greatest interest and buzz were the tablets, smart phones and 3D televisions——all items where apps and content count. 

 Among the tablet contenders:  Motorola introduced the Xoom which runs on Google’s Android Honeycomb OS complete with still and video capture capability as well as video conferencing; RIM showed the Blackberry Playbook tablet PC which is made for use in conjunction with their smart phones; LG and T-Mobile announced the G-Slate tablet also running on the Honeycomb OS; NEC showed the LT-W Cloud, a dual Screen tablet/e-book reader; and Kno also showed their dual screen  Kno Tablet Textbook which is aimed mainly at students; Samsung had its Galaxy tablet present and announced a Wi-Fi only model coming soon and Toshiba announced that it will release a Wi-Fi only tablet later this year; Samsung also showed their Sliding PC7-a tablet netbook hybrid, that will be available later this year; Asus, announced several tablets running the Honeycomb OS, but also announced the Eee Slate EP121, a slate tablet that runs on a full blown Windows 7 operating system; Dell announced the Streak 7 Tablet (T-Mobile is the carrier) with a forward facing camera for video chatting/conferencing and a rear camera for taking photos; Vizeo announced the VIA Tablet with an 8 inch screen and a forward facing camera for video chat/conferencing (I can see the ads now: Beyoncé VIA tablet!); Acer showed the Iconia tablet prototype; and Lenova showed LePad.   

The growth in the tablets and smartphones signals a shift in the importance that content and content delivery will have, and is, perhaps, further indication of a shift in 1) how consumers will be accessing information and connecting to the web and 2) in the imaging preferences of commercial and non-commercial clients.   No, I’m not suggesting that the still image is dead, but rather multimedia projects—some combination of stills, motion and/or computer generated imaging—will become increasingly important in satisfying clients and in reaching as well as engaging audiences. (On a personal note, I have found myself more concerned with the content and quality of content I deliver than the device I use to capture/record it.) 

So, how big is the tablet market?  In 2010, the market was essentially owned by Apple’s iPad (95% of the market) with an estimated 10-12 million units sold. With the other units becoming available from other manufacturers and platforms this year, some analysts are predicting the 2011 tablet sales could be in the range of 24 million units on the conservative side to 40-50 million units if the market truly blows-up.¹    Most analysts also agree that, at least for 2011, the iPad will continue to dominate the market.

But this post isn’t about who will dominate as much as it is about the potential for tablet technology to transform the way people communicate and entertain themselves.  This should be a wakeup call to all content creators to get our ducks in order.

Notes;

1: Sources –  Forrester Research Inc and Info-Tech Research Group.

The revised and expanded second addition of the e-book Beyond Stills: HDSLR Motion Capture for the Non-Filmmaker is available at the Beyond Stills Web-site and is also now available at the iBooks for direct download to iPhone and iPad. The second edition includes a more general discussion of HDSLR and interchangeable lens – mirror-less camera settings and operations regardless of brand, as well as discussion of the including menus, movie settings, and operations of Canon and Nikon HDSLRs including the Canon 60D, the Nikon D7000 and the D3100. The First section of the book focuses on the Camera – operations and settings; Part 2 of the book focuses on accessories to help facilitate motion capture; and the third section focuses on motion capture techniques. The book includes exercises which will better allow you to understand how your camera will behave under different shooting conditions. Additionally, the Interactive Resource Guide, which allows readers to access product and other information from manufacturers and was originally a separate publication, has been incorporated into the e-book.

To watch a video preview of the book, click here.

With the growing demand for still and motion capture from clients, interest in continuous lighting options grow as do the number of products available to meet this need.  I have wanted to explore the use of continuous lighting in a studio setting for a while, and thanks to K5600 Lighting and Calumet Photographic NYC, I recently got the chance to work with a Joker-Bug 800 watt HMI.  The experience is best summed up as “illuminating!”

To read and see more, click here.

There is a great deal of mystery surrounding HMI lighting for many a still photographer and HDSLR motion shooter.  Ask about them and you are likely to hear:  “They are expensive;”  “They are daylight balanced;” “I’ve seen them used on movie sets;” “Did I say that they are expensive;” “They get hot;” and “My stylist pulls clothes from there.” (Tell the person who gives you the last answer that you said “HMI” not “H&M!”)  You may also hear some claiming to have found budget-priced “HMI” lighting, leaving you to wonder. 

HMI stands for Hydrargyrum (Mercury) medium-arc iodide and is one of several types of metal halide, High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights. HIDs are “arc” lamps; and as such, they rely on the combination of gas and metal salts and an electric arc between two electrodes to produce light when ignited by current.  Incandescent lamps, on the other hand, rely on a tungsten filament to produce light.  HMIs require a ballast (today’s are electronic rather than magnetic) to ignite and regulate the arc.  The upshot is that the arc lamps, and HMIs in particular, produce greater light output and are more energy efficient than incandescent lamps.  By way of example, the output of a 200 watt HMI bulb (depending on the type of reflector used) is similar to that of a tungsten bulb in the 650-800 watt range.  With cameras capable of producing stunning results at higher ISOs, Peter Bradshaw who represents HMI lighting manufacturer  K5600® Lighting points out that  “At ISO 800, an 800 watt HMI puts as much light on the subject as a 6,000 watt Fresnel does at ISO 100 — in a smaller, less expensive package, and can be run on standard 15 amp lines instead of tying in to the main (220V) breakers.” 

Image Courtesy of K5600® Lighting

HMI is actually a product name which is a trademark of Osram-Sylvania, but is used generically to describe metal halide lamps much in the same way that Xerox is used as a catchall for photocopying.  In addition to being more efficient than incandescent lamps, HMIs are daylight balanced which means that no filters are required for outdoor use and there is no resulting reduction in light transmission.   HMI lighting is a hard light source which is available in sufficiently large enough wattages to be able to control lighting in outdoor environments including overpowering the sun. HMIs can also, however, be very versatile lights. Bradshaw points out that   “The K5600 Jokers offer a point-source daylight source — the lamp — in a head which can shape light from narrow-beam hard (our Focal Spot) to big source soft (our Multi-Bug Chimera Adapter & Soft Tube), pausing in the middle with the Beamer par reflector and a set of Fresnel lenses.  Additionally, K5600 has introduced the Crossover Adapter, allowing still photo light modifiers to be fitted onto our 200, 400 & 800 watt heads.

 Between energy efficiency, power/projection, and color temperature, HMI lighting has enjoyed popularity in film and broadcast circles. Bradshaw is quick to add that as far digital imaging goes, whether talking about stills or motion, “We all know that digital loves daylight.”

The response to the issue of whether HMIs are truly expensive is not as cut and dry as it might seem. A single 200 Watt HMI kit averages in the neighborhood of $2600.  The lamps can set you back a couple of hundred dollars as well.  For the amateur or enthusiast photographer/videographer for whom ownership is important, they may be viewed as expensive, especially when compared to flash lighting for which the price of admission can run as low as a couple of hundred dollars, or when compared to the initial outlay for tungsten, some florescent and even some LED units. But for photographers/videographers whose work demands a combination of continuous light with reach and flexibility, daylight balance and efficiency or for production and broadcast companies, the expense is justified by the “tool.”  If ownership of HMIs is not an option, whether you are an enthusiast or a working “imageer,” they can be rented when needed.

Now we need to go back to being technical again.  You may hear the term “hot re-strike” or “hot restart” used when HMIs are being discussed.  What this means is that the lights can be restarted immediately after being turned off.    I bring this up now because there are HID metal halide lamps available which are marketed by some as “low cost HMIs” for video and still applications, which are actually CDMs or Ceramic Discharge Metal Halide lamps.  The major differences between CDMs and HMIs are:  CDMs are “cold re-strike” or “cold restart” which means that you have to wait five minutes for warm-up and five to ten minutes once they are extinguished before relighting them; cold re-strike technology results in CDM bulbs being less expensive than HMI bulbs and a having longer life; and CDM power options are not as robust as the HMI options.  CMDs have been around for sometime; they are commonly used for architectural applications where powerful but low heat-generating and efficient lighting that can be run for long periods are required. CDM ellipsoidal and Fresnel fixtures are used overhead in theatrical productions as well.

 Richard Andrewski of Cool Lights which offers HMI and CDM Fresnel fixtures makes the distinction between the two types of metal halide options and is very candid about the differences on his Web site and in the various Internet forums he monitors. “You have to keep in mind that HMI lights were originally intended for film and broadcasting whereas CDMs were intended for a host of commercial applications from architecture to grow lights which simulate sunlight.” While HMI lights used for film and broadcast are generally in the 6000 Kelvin range in terms of color temperature and have a high CRI (color rendering index,) Andrewski points out that there are a broad range of CDM bulbs available from 3000 Kelvin to about 8000 Kelvin. We [at Cool Lights] have gone with the 5400K for our CDM products because it is in the standard range that video and film professionals are looking for.  5400K isn’t a standard color temp they manufacture in so we had to get them custom made.  We have been experimenting with the 6000K ones to match HMIs but they are often lower in CRI than the other color temps.”

Image Courtesy of Cool Lights™

Andrewski cautions those who are considering CDM products to not only look at the color temperature of the bulb but the CRI as well.  Why is the CRI important?  The CRI is a rating (0-100 scale) of the lights ability to reproduce color accurately, without distortion:  The higher the CRI rating, the greater the color fidelity. Andrewski also points out that some of the CDM products being marketed for film and video usage use frosted bulbs and are intended for use in modifiers such as soft boxes.   “We chose the smaller single ended bulbs [for our CDM products] because they are very good point light sources, can easily change from tungsten color to daylight color with just change of bulb with no loss from gelling in other words, and they would readily go in today’s compact Fresnel and par fixtures which are the form factor and point source that many video people prefer to work with.”

This is our first installment in a series of articles on HID lighting. I hope that you have found the discussion informative and of value.  Over the summer we will be exploring HMI and CDM lighting further along with other topics of interest. I’d like to thank Peter Bradshaw who represents the Crossover program for K5600 here in the North America and Richard Andrewski of Cool Lights for their willingness to share their insights. 

I would be remiss if I did not stress the need for care and safety in operating HID lights.  Whether you rent or buy, please follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation, and transport of the fixtures, ballasts and lamps.  Many HID lamps emit ultraviolet radiation while lit so do not look directly into an unshielded lamp and take necessary precautions if the fixture you are using them in does not have UV protection. Do not handle the bulbs as the oils from your fingers can shorten lamp life. (Peter suggests that you add a pair of leather gloves to your kit.) Do not touch the lamps when they are hot, and remember that if you need to dispose of them, they do contain mercury and /or other materials that may require special disposal procedures.  If you have any doubts, consult the lamp manufacturer’s Website, and/or contact your local sanitation department or environmental oversight agency.

Disclosure: No consideration has been received in connection with this blog entry, nor has any manufacturer and/or retailer offered any consideration

 All images in this entry and in this blog are copyrighted and used with permission.

While the average camera enthusiast may not be familiar with the name Frezzi, those in the world of electronic news gathering (ENG) and broadcasting most certainly are.  Frezzi lighting products are often spotted atop professional video cameras and their daylight balance HMI products are among the more popular sun gun fixtures available in the market. 

Copyright Byron Atkinson

 With the growth in HDSLRs among broadcasters, Frezzi has taken an integrated approach and offers platforms to its customers that address the need for lighting, power and stabilization.  This integrated approach is not new for Frezzi:  It is consistent with their product offerings for traditional video cameras.  But they are one of the few companies offering this kind of integration solution for HDSLR users, and in doing so, may undoubtedly find their product have appeal to a far broader market.

Kevin Crawford of the New Jersey-based company provides us with an interesting look at the company and its latest products.

Q:  Frezzi is probably best known for its lighting products.  What sets Frezzi apart from the other lighting companies?

KC:  Frezzi has been innovating and designing portable lighting and power packs for television news since the beginnings of terrestrial broadcasting.  My grandfather, James Frezzolini, founded the company while working as the Chief News Reel Cameraman at WPIX Channel 11 here in New York City.  As a skilled machinist and inventor, he developed the world’s first portable lights for use with 16mm Bell and Howell Film cameras used for news at that time.   It all started there and continued for the TV news industry with a broad range industry firsts, including lighting, power packs and Frezzolini 16mm film cameras.

We offer photographers and videographers their choice of lighting products; tungsten, HMIs, and LED replacement lamps.   Frezzi is the only company offering a line of highly portable and lightweight HMIs, from our 15W Micro Sun Gun to the 400W HMI Super Sun Gun.  They all can be DC battery-powered, making them great field lights.  Additionally, Frezzi lighting products are made and serviced here in the USA. 

Q:  What made Frezzi decide to enter the market with HDSLR compatible products?

KC:  It was an easy decision for us.  We have been providing Frezzi Mini-Fill lights as continuous light sources to the still photography market for years.  We actually saw a growing number of still photographers using tungsten fill lighting rather than flash units for some of their glamour and wedding work.  This eliminated harsh flash shock while utilizing continuous lighting for highlighting and accenting. Also, you cannot replicate the warmth and full color spectrum of a good tungsten lamp source. 

Given the fact that our products are designed to be portable, support and improve the handheld camcorder shooting experience, expanding the Frezzi product line to include HDSLRs was a natural.  Since some of the products we offer for HDSLRs are adaptations of products originally used for and proven to work with professional broadcast cameras.

Q;  How important is the lighting component of the HDSLR rig or system?  What advantage does the Frezzi approach offer?

KC:  The lighting is extremely important even though the HDSLR can shoot at low light.  We’ve seen some good available light video, but when a subject properly lit [with a Frezzi,] you’ll see a dramatic improvement in image quality.  The image will be more vivid and the colors will really “pop” as the light will help to separate the subject from the background.  You’ll see that “sparkle in the eyes” and bring your subject to life.  Being low light sensitive is good with the HDSLR because you can gently wash your subject with accent lighting by adjusting the dimmer control just enough to bring up the warm, golden skin tones and fully saturated colors while having the camera’s sensor working in the “sweet spot” for an ideal image.  Our rig has the advantage of the light being powered by a Frezzi battery on the back of the shoulder support which also serves as a counterbalance as well as a power source for those using a monitor and/or other accessories.

Q:  You have two types of rigs available: one which is hand held and the other which is shoulder mounted. Can you tell us about them?

KC:  Customers soon find out HDSLRs are heavy and cumbersome to shoot video, creating painful wrist and arm fatigue over time.  This makes it difficult to acquire smooth, professional-looking video when shooting for extended periods of time.  

The Frezzi Hand Held Rig is a multi-purpose stabilizer and camera support arm.  It mounts the HDSLR to the support arm, on the opposite side; it has a handle with battery mount.  This configuration is well-balanced and easy to handle because the weight of the camera, lens and other accessories is distributed along the support arm.  The Power Block battery on the handle

 

Image courtesy of Frezzi

acts as a counter-balance and power source for the Frezzi light or any other 12V accessory.  As you know, having a balanced rig helps keep the camera steady when doing handheld and roving shots. 

The Stable-Cam Shoulder Rig is a full HDSLR platform for camera, battery, and light with multiple cold shoe mounts for additional accessories like monitors, wireless mics and audio recorders.  One big design concern for us was to create the Stable-Cam as a “tool-less” assembly and also have the ability to fold up small enough to fit in a carry-on.  When deployed, the Stable-Cam is fully adjustable to different body types and every joint articulates.  One of the

 

Image courtesy of Frezzi

advantages the Stable-Cam offers is a lower waist boom which provides an additional point of contact for stabilization and relieves the weight from handholding.  You can easily adjust focus and camera settings using the Stable-Cam as 100% of the weight is balanced on your shoulder and waist.  Many users refer to it as a “Human Tripod” since it offers the ability to shoot for hours without any wrist or arm fatigue while holding the shot smooth and steady.  Again, our high capacity batteries which can power the Frezzi light, monitor or any other 12V accessory are integral to the system. 

Using one of the Frezzi HDSLR Stabilizer rigs results in the camera and accessories being both  balanced and more manageable which makes for smooth and professional looking images and video clips. 

We offer both stabilizers in “kit” configurations which include the Stabilizer, a MINI-Fill and a battery. There are different kit configurations available with MSRPs between $1150 and $1950.

Q:  Your mini “sun gun” can utilize a tungsten or LED bulb.  What factored into your decision to offer both? 

KC:  The Frezzi Mini-Fill Dimmer is an industry standard video light used by tens of thousands of professional broadcasters around the world.  It accepts any standard MR-16 lamp, with a GX5.3 socket base, up to a 100 Watts.  With the wide proliferation and availability of LED MR-16 type replacement lamps, LEDs are a logical choice when lower power consumption and long run time are considerations.  LED MR-16 lamps are “direct” lamp plug-in replacements, suitable for any MR-16 fixture. So it’s a simple evolution of technology that has made this possible.  Being able to switch back and forth between Tungsten and LED has its advantages based on shooting and lighting conditions as well as the photographer’s intent. 

Q:  What kind of run times are you estimating with the batteries that come with the systems?

KC:  Run times depend on the wattage of lamp and accessories being powered, but in general when using our Hand Held Rig and Power Block battery, the Frezzi Mini-Fill Dimmer with 35W Tungsten lamp will run for almost two hours continuously; with an 8W LED replacement lamp, the run time jumps to over eight hours of continuous light at 5500 degrees daylight color temperature.

On our Stable-Cam powered rig which uses a more robust battery, the 35W Tungsten Mini-Fill Dimmer will run almost 2.8 hours With an 8W LED replacement lamp will run for over 12 hours.

But keep in mind, with the addition of a LCD monitor and other accessories that require power, the battery run time will decrease.  

Q:  Can your HMI units be fitted on the HDSLR rigs, and if so are there any advantages to using them over tungsten and LEDs?

Frezzi HMIs can be fitted to the HDSLR rigs with ease.  Frezzi lighting has standardized shoe mounting and power connectors making substitution simple.  The advantage of HMI is their high output at daylight color temperature 5600K.  When shooting outdoors in direct sunlight or when the subject is back lit, HMIs are unequaled among continuous lighting products in their ability to light a subject effectively to eliminate shadows.  Tungsten lamps need to be color-corrected from 3200K to 5600K which will reduce their light by approximately one f-stop.  Most LED sources at this time do not have enough throw and fall off very rapidly to be effective outdoors in direct daylight.

Some of our customers are using our 15W HMIs on HDSLR rigs as a fill-in light, and our 24W HMI stand mounted, as key and back lighting.  Being all battery-powered, small and extremely portable makes them great as HDSLR portable light kits.  While these customers are using the lights as portable lightings kits with “HDSLR for News” crews, documentary work and ENG crews, we believe they will be attractive alternatives for other segments of the HDSLR market.

Frezzi HDSLR support and light products are available now.  For more information on these and other Frezzi products visit: http://www.frezzi.com or call (800) 345-1030.

Thanks to Kevin and James Crawford of Frezzi. 

Disclosure: No consideration has been received in connection with this blog entry, nor has any manufacturer and/or retailer offered any consideration

 All images in this entry and in this blog are copyrighted and used with permission.

What’s in our Sister blogs:

 HDSLRS-n-motion:  HDSLR Cameras: Products to Watch For

Byron Says:  Story Telling